CA: Screen Visions: Student filmmaker Kevin Brooks heads to Sundance Ignite
Following in the footsteps of such Memphis moviemakers as Craig Brewer and Ira Sachs, Kevin Brooks hopes to get a boost from the Sundance Film Festival — not as a professional with a new movie but as a student participant in a program aimed at “emerging filmmakers” with a “clear artistic passion” for cinema.
Brooks, 22, a lifelong Memphian and a senior in the College of Communication and Fine Arts at the University of Memphis, is one of five filmmakers ages 18-24 who were selected to participate in Sundance Ignite, a new program intended to encourage and develop what a Sundance news release calls “powerful new voices in the next generation of filmmakers.”
As a Sundance Ignite fellow, Brooks was flown to the Sundance Film Festival on Tuesday for an “intensive” Sundance experience. During the final week of the festival in Park City, Utah, he will watch movies, participate in various creative exercises, pitch projects, enjoy “meaningful industry exposure” and meet his Ignite mentor, Sultan Sharrief, writer-director of “Bilal’s Stand,” a 2010 Sundance premiere about an African-American Muslim family. Sharrief will act as Brooks’ professional mentor for the next year, offering guidance, feedback, support and connections as Brooks works to develop his next project.
The Sundance Ignite application asked would-be participants to submit a short film that was “innovative and bold, so that sparked my attention,” said Brooks, who was chosen from among some 300 applicants nationwide. The film he submitted is the 6-minute “Keep Pushing,” a nonfiction narrative about a skateboarder that is a followup to “Skate Is Life,” a Brooks short film that screened in November at the Indie Memphis Film Festival and at last year’s GoPro High-Tech Filmfest at the U of M. Like “Pushing,” “Skate” — which took the top prize at the GoPro fest — showcases glorious, gliding camerawork, shot by small digital cameras that capture what could be called a skateboard’s point of view.
“It has really a nice mood to it, and beautiful images,” said U of M professor Craig Leake, who helped sponsor Brooks’ application.
Brooks said he is a big fan of director Paul Thomas Anderson. “‘There Will Be Blood,’ ‘The Master,’ ‘Boogie Nights,’ I love those — the way he creates this universe in the film where you feel like you’re there, everything is so authentic. Lately, I’ve been getting into older cinema — John Cassavetes, Tarkovsky. Just like Paul Thomas Anderson, he puts you inside his world.”
At Sundance, Brooks hopes to see “Dark Night,” the new movie (inspired by the 2012 movie theater massacre that occurred during a screening of “The Dark Knight Rises”) from Tim Sutton, whose previous feature was the micro-budgeted art film “Memphis.” Local filmmaker Morgan Jon Fox was assistant director on the Florida-shot “Dark Night,” which debuted this week to rave reviews (Variety called it “a sobering rumination on the mindset of a suburban America simultaneously obsessed with and plagued by gun violence”). Also earning much praise at Sundance are the “heartbreaking” (per The Hollywood Reporter)“Christine,” co-produced by Memphis-born Nick Case, and “Little Men”(“a little movie brimming with little truths about modern life,” according to Variety), the latest from Ira Sachs. Another premiere with a local connection is “The Hollars,” produced by Memphis-based Ben Nearn for his Sycamore Pictures company. Meanwhile, stalking the streets of Park City will be former Indie Memphis executive director Erik Jambor, serving as a member of the narrative features jury for the Slamdance Film Festival, another celebration of independent film that runs concurrently with Sundance.
Brooks said he enjoys Sutton’s work because “I love movies that try to, I don’t know, blend philosophy and film together.” But the possibility of meeting filmmakers he admires isn’t the only reason Brooks is thrilled about going to Sundance. “I’m excited and nervous because it’s my first plane ride.”